The Domino Effect


Dominoes are a type of board game where players use a variety of tiles to construct their sets. The pieces are numbered and marked with spots or “pips,” and the ends of each tile are blank or identically patterned. They are typically made of wood or a polymer material.

Despite their small size, dominoes are intricately detailed. The art of domino-making is rooted in a tradition that dates back to ancient China. Many European-style sets are made from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony.

While these materials are a good choice for dominoes, some players prefer to build their own sets using different natural and synthetic materials. For example, some dominoes are made from frosted glass and crystal, while others are made of ceramic clay or pewter.

In a domino game, each player draws seven tiles from a stack or “stock” of face down tiles. The stock is usually placed on an edge of the table, so that each player can see the value of their own tiles but not the other players’.

The first player begins the game by playing a domino, then the other player must play a domino with an end that matches the number of pips on the previous domino. This rule is called “stitching up” the ends of the domino chain.

Stephen Morris, a physicist at the University of Toronto, says that one physical phenomenon in particular is essential to making dominoes work well: gravity. He explains that when a domino is picked up and held upright against the pull of gravity, it stores some potential energy, or stored energy based on its position.

As the domino falls, much of that potential energy converts to kinetic energy, or energy of motion, which is transmitted to the next domino and provides the push needed to knock it over.

In some cases, the domino effect can create a cascade of events that start small and grow to become huge. It can even lead to an identity-based shift in beliefs that eventually impact every area of a person’s life, like Jennifer Dukes Lee’s decision to make her bed each day.

Once Lee started to believe she was a clean, organized, productive person, her domino effect caused her to begin to build this new self-image in other areas of her life, as well. She decided to make her bed every morning, and soon found she was creating other habits, including a daily meditation routine, which grew to be very successful for her.

While the domino effect can be a powerful tool for motivating people, it also has the potential to create a cascade of other problems as well. For example, in the case of a company such as Domino’s, it can cause a chain reaction of bad leadership decisions that can be catastrophic for a business.